By JOHN SCOTT COOPER Staff Writer
The current session of the Georgia legislature was foremost on the minds of Waycross city commissioners during the planning and information session Monday at City Hall.
They discussed their desire for the repeal of House Bill 591, which changed the city commission meeting procedures when Rep. Mark Hatfield was in office, their opposition to HB 170, which deals with state transportation funding and a correction to HB 254, which amends the City of Waycross code concerning the municipal court.
City Manager Raphel Maddox told the commission that Rep. Jason Shaw suggested the repeal of HB 591 the city has requested is not necessary. The legislative law office, Shaw said, had decided the bill was unconstitutional and should not have been allowed through the assembly. Local legislators seemed inclined to do nothing and just let the city handle its meetings and how it signs up guests to speak however commissioners decide.
But City Attorney Rick Currie said the city charter was changed by HB 591 and the commission could not legally ignore it. Because of this, commissioners directed Currie to send a letter to the legislative law office and legislators urging them to repeal the bill. They had decided when the new legislative group took office it was a good opportunity to revert back to the way things were before HB 591.
Rep. Shaw and Rep. Jason Spencer had also advised city officials to be patient about HB 170 which, in its early drafts, proposes to take some of the sales tax revenues that have been returned to local governments (cities, counties and school boards) and use the tax money to address transportation needs across the state. The bill is undergoing changes, so wait until the final draft is done, the legislators said.
“Cities are going to be the ones on the losing end,” Mayor Clarence Billups said. “I don’t agree with waiting. By the time the final draft comes out, it could be too late.”
The commissioners supported Billups in his call for them and all city residents to contact legislators and speak their minds on HB 170.
House Bill 254 was introduced to make changes in the city’s municipal court system to bring it into compliance with state guidelines. The language that passed the House called for jury trials which are not a part of the municipal court system. Representatives promised the language will be corrected before the bill goes to the Senate.
The commission briefly discussed the few items on the agenda for the meeting tonight at 7: scheduling a public hearing about an alley closing, considering a cemetery deed transfer and the biggest issue, approving a resolution to honor Macon/Bibb County’s fallen firefighter Lt. Randy Parker.
The meeting rolled along after it began with a visit by several guests. The new Ware State Prison warden Tom Gramiak stopped by to introduce himself. Jimmie Burke and Barbara Griffin invited the commissioners to the play “Purlie Victorious” they are putting together at the Okefenokee Heritage Center. Philip Saussy, of J. Smith Lanier, reported on several issues with the insurance plans.
Willie Character talked for the second time with commissioners about erecting a memorial to Choctaw Native Americans who were “code talkers” in World War I. And Addie Gibson described the First United Methodist Church’s Good Neighbors Project that is preparing to clean up a part of the community, thanking the city for its help in planning the project.